Friday, July 15, 2016

Nashville Week of Hope 2016

Kyle and I are home after an amazing (yet with moments of high drama) week long mission trip in Nashville.  We were stretched this week by God in LOTS of ways and I am sitting here smiling thinking of the memories we have made, the service we were blessed to get to do, and the time to focus on our relationship with Jesus. There is nothing like traveling to a new place with our youth to experience the community and to serve.
Here is our group on the front steps of Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville.  The neighborhood we were in was ROUGH.  We did not let our youth go outside after dark, and we took their safety very seriously. We stayed in a historic church that was built in the 1800's.  It was pretty and brick but it was old which meant no central air, very few electrical sockets, and quirks.  We could not plug anything in on the floor we slept on because it would blow the electrical which meant the air condition window units would shut off, so the kids had to plug their phones in downstairs!  HA!
this youth leader/princess showered in this outdoor shower.  Yes, it was a garden hose shower outside. We took cold garden hose showers all week long.  Like I said, God stretched us all this week!  I was so far out of my comfort zone showering outdoors in a rough neighborhood at 6 a.m. each morning.
I love seeing our youth serve and here is Kyle serving breakfast with his crew.  We were put in crews with youth and adults we did not know and sent to service areas.  Kyle and his crew served at a nursing home.  Again God really stretched us this week!!!!
Pardon my no makeup mission trip crazy hair, but here I am with a beautiful girl from Syria.  I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer all week at Nations Ministry Center which serves refugees in Nashville.  We were honored to read with them and to help them do Lexia on the computer to improve their English.  This experience opened my eyes to the plight of refugees and how we should respond as followers of Jesus.
This is a beautiful girl from Syria.  Because of ISIS and the Civil War, many are having to leave.  This beauty and her family have been in in a refugee camp in Jordan while they did the three year background check and vetting process to get refugee status to come to America.  I am not clear why people fear refugees families, because this girl and her family went through a long and tedious screening to get to come here.  Her parents are hard working and want to raise their children in a safe and amazing country like ours. She has only been here a few weeks and and speaks very little english.  We did a computer program called LexiaCore to help her learn english so she can start high school in a few weeks.  Refugees that have been in the refugee camps have had a year or several that they have been out of school due to wars and persecution.
My pictures are totally out of order, but one night at chapel/program, the youth were invited to visit different stations around the room to learn about Jesus.  It was a wonderful way to experience who God is.  It was very powerful and here was my favorite station.  We all have identity because of Jesus.  We all got to stamp our fingerprint on this piece of paper to remind us that we may be different but we all are welcome in the family of God.
I spent a lot of time at the refugee center learning about the crisis of refugees in our world.  It is heartbreaking to know that children are enduring death, war, persecution, all over the world yet seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter overwhelmed me.
Camp food was TERIBLE.  I am not a picky eater and I even thought it was terrible.  Food was bad and portions were small.  Tuesday evening was our free night and we went to Opry Mills and had real food.  I was sitting at a table with six others and this was our appetizer.  We ate it all and then our dinners!! HA!
Tuesday night at Opry Mills was such fun!!
We were so blessed because we were able to go to the movies with the children from Nations Ministry Refugee Center.  Movies are a great way to teach English and we saw Curious George at the $1 movie time.  Look how beautiful these children are!

So Nashville was not without its drama.  Apparently the first night we were asleep in the church and some local drunk started throwing beer bottles at the church vans! Ours was not bothered thank goodness, but it opened our eyes to the danger of the neighborhood and we were strict with our youth.  Then we had two students in our youth group that had to go to the ER via ambulance due to exposure and ingestion of Flash Bang which is a super dangerous hot pepper sauce.  It was scary and could have been way worse, but I never want to chase an ambulance with two of our youth in it again.  We all learned some lessons about making good decisions this week!

In the afternoons at the refugee center a large group of children from Burma came to the center.  These children have been in America for 1-3 years and they are mostly all christian families that are escaping religious persecution by the Burmese government in their country.  Here I am wth a little girl from Burma.  She reads on grade level now due to the AMAZING work Nations Ministry provides to these families in Nashville.
Apprently our youth jumped on the pokemon go bandwagon this week and this was my response when youth asked me to take them pokemon hunting.
These beautiful boys are from Burma and during book time they wanted to read their children's bibles.  I was reading with them and realized these kids know about Jesus and know his word so well.  Our children born and bred here in USA should take note!  What a blessing to sit with these beautiful children and hear them tell me about their favorite stores about Jesus with their gorgeous accents.  It blows my mind that people here in American are so resistant to refugees coming to their cities when 51 percent of refugees are beautiful children likes these boys?!
I spent the entire week at the refugee center with these great people.  At first I was freaked out to lead and supervise youth I do not know, but it was such a blessing! Again working with a crew of kids I did not know (except for Corbin) was a stretch for me!
Here is Kyle with his crew!  He did not love his placement at all but God put him where he needed him and Kyle was stretched to serve at a nursing home.
We all made great friendships with new friends and had a blast making memories with our own church friends.  Here is Kyle giving a hug or a handshake to one of his crew mates this morning as we were leaving.  My boy is growing up! 

This princess was stretched and a few times extremely stressed this week.  But at the end of the week, I am praising God for the memories we made, the laughs we shared until we were crying, the bible devotions we had, and the opportunity to serve in Nashville.  We had three youth committ their lives to Christ on this trip and that is why I will say Nashville Week of Hope 2016 was AMAZING!!!!  May we continue to remember that because of Jesus we are ordinary people able to do extraordinary things in His name.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nashville 2K16

We are loving our Nashville trip!! We are hot, we are soooooo far out of our comfort zones in terms of showers, crews, and our facility but we are growing and learning.

Last night at opening program we received our crew assignments.  The whole planning process we were told that youth would be able to choose their work assignments and amazingly last night the youth (and adults)  handled it beautifully when they were divided up and had no imput at all over their assignment!  We have some youth and some chaperones that are in a group with no one they know.  

Today we all divided up and went to our service sites for the first time.  Some went to Boys and Girls club type of places, Kyle, went to a nursing home, some went to a Habitat Store to help, Kim got the only physical labor and she went to an elderly woman's home and did yard work.  I was blessed with the opportunity to go to a refugee center and work with children assisting them with their literacy skills and reading.  This gal was in heaven!!!!!!!!!

So lets discuss the shower situation.  Only for Jesus would I go to a shower tent outside and shower using a gardeen hose!  It is freezing but it is so blasted hot here that it is refreshing.  This princess has had to dig DEEP but for the chance to meet these refugee children and learn about them made it all worthwhile.  We are here to serve but let it be known we are the ones being blessed.  The shower was interesting enough and then add that one of our darling youth decided to turn the water off while I was shampooing my hair made for an extra shower adventure!  HA! 

I am too tired to blog more but just know that we are great despite being soooooo far out of our comfort zones.  Be proud of your youth-they are representing Jesus so well here in Nashville.  Good night from Nashville! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Celebrating #12

I think every parent would say their child's birthday is bitter sweet because we love watching them celebrate, but it breaks out hearts how fast the years are ticking by.  David's birthday brings out a slew of emotions for me because there were days during his treatment I wondered if he would make it to his 9th birthday, and today we celebrated #12.  

If you follow me on instagram or facebook you know that Dave celebrated his birthday yesterday by giving himself a haircut to look like Steph Curry!  Ha!  We got it fixed last night at the hair salon and we had the talk that only Mrs. Victoria can use the scissors on his hair.  After the drama of yesterday,  today was the day we got to celebrate with his three best friends, Zane, Ethan and Sam.

 Dave's only request was to go with his siblings and his three bff's to Just Jump which is a trampoline park. They had a blast and this Momma was so blessed to sit and watch him just be a normal boy hanging with his dudes.
 They jumped, dunked, and had a blast at the trampoline park!
 Even big brother Kyle had a great time!

 This picture blesses my heart because the friendship between these boys makes me smile.  They love David and David adores them.  They have his back yet they do not treat him different because of his Down Syndrome.  My eyes got misty several times today listening to them interact and talk sports, girls and food.  If you ever wonder if full inclusion works, come spend some time with Dave and his buddies.  You will be amazed.
 Ethan and Sam perfected their flip today and I happen to catch this epic picture of them mid-air!  I had a blast with these boys and my own kids today.
 Dave had a blast.
 After jumping for a while we went to Olive Garden to catch up on their carbs!  Ha!  This group hit the breadsticks pretty hard!
David got this beautful chocolate lasagna cake for his birthday dessert and he was so happy!  PIzza, salad and chocolate are all David's favorites and we got them all at one place.  

This is the smile that I will never forget.  This is the smile of one of the coolest, most amazing, hilarious, mischevious, and Jesus loving children around.  As we said grace around the table today before David's birthday meal, I had to fight back tears.  God blessed our lives 12 years ago by giving us this child.  He has taught us how to really live, love, survive, and bless others along the way.

Big David, Happy Birthday!  We are all so thankful you are in our lives.  You make us see the world more clearly and that is a life that is focused on God.  You makes us all laugh and I am so thankful God gave us you.  When I held you as a newborn in the hospital 12 years ago as a shocked and scared Mommy I never dreamed the ride you were going to take us on.  I am so thankful for you buddy-you make me see God everyday and you taught us how to live, really live.  My heart overflows....